Author: Jostein Gaarder (1995)
jusco’s Rating: ★★★1/2
Little did I know that a book about philosophy would be so riveting; you could say I was immediately drawn into the magic of Sophie’s World, originally written in Norwegian by Jostein Gaarder, but translated four years later into English. Do not be fooled for it is not a fantasy novel that involves a young girl and a wise old man; they are just mediums to convey the real message across, that is, the history of philosophy. Yes, it is ultimately a textbook but do not let that turn you off. It is a page-turner and a compelling read. For those who equate the word ‘philosophy’ with ‘boredom’ (I admit I did before reading this), give it a shot. It comprehensively covers everything, not just philosophy but also religion, science, arts, the entire works. A big reason as to why I couldn’t stop reading was because I love history. It had been a long time since I was so riveted. It’s true, there is a bit of fantasy and science fiction elements, but remember, this is not a story but mainly an educational guide.
I have to confess, I have never been interested in philosophy, the reason being I’ve always felt ‘philosophy’ is just an unnecessary term; it is an existing phenomenon that humans naturally experience and think about, so why put a ‘label’ to these experiences? But I learnt a great deal from this book. Would I say it’s 100% accurate? No, but it’s a great introduction to philosophy, and you might surprise yourself when you realise you’re actually having fun learning. It is a good guide, a good stimulator to think deeply about the important questions in life, about right vs wrong, about reason vs emotion, about man vs God. The book is a bit too much to digest if read in one sitting, but ironically that’s what I ended up doing. It helped enhance my thinking; not necessarily my understanding but it provided many thought-provoking questions that will continue to fuel my curiosity about life. I’m glad explicit answers weren’t given (not that it’s possible to give clear answers to the questions ‘Who are you?’ and ‘Where does the world come from?’). I’d prefer to search for myself the answers as I go through life. It’s more meaningful and personal that way.